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India and Tolerance || Acharya Prashant (2016)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
31 min
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A charya Prashant : We are here together and this meeting, the togetherness, is the central thing. Today happens to be Ramana Jayanti, an auspicious day. And on any day, what matters is the closeness, the meeting. For name sake, we always have a certain topic to discuss. It’s a kind if an entertainment: the name, the topic. How does it matter what we discuss? That we are really talking, is what matters. We could discuss this or we could discuss that. Someday, I might just forget and I would really like to forget the appointed topic for the day. I may just come here and be with you and say anything on any topic or not say anything on any topic. How does saying matter? But anyway, since its a ritual to speak and speak on an honored topic. So we shall dutifully follow the order and talk about the topic at hand. What does it happen to be?


Good that you too are forgetting, or you don’t know at all. Knowledge is anyway always a burden. Forgetfulness keeps all of us much lighter. May we forget more and more. But I know, inspite of our forgetfulness, we are very vigilant beings. So we remember. So what do we remember about the topic for the day? What is the topic?

Listeners: India and tolerance.

AP: India and tolerance.

Words are words. Aren’t they? Words are words. What is India? Another word. Just like so many words that we utter every day morning till sleep, India is another word. The meaning is supplied to the word by the utterer of the word. Is it not so? What does food mean? Or love mean? Or the river Ganga mean? Or a person mean or a place mean? Nothing. The meaning is supplied to the word by the one who utters the word. Otherwise, a word is a word.

And what kind of meaning will I fill any word with? I am the one who fills meaning in a word. Don’t I? A wall means so many different things to different people. An animal or a mountain means entirely different things to different people. And even to the same person, it will mean differently at different times and in different situations. Wouldn’t it? So I am the one who supplies meaning to the word ‘India’ as well.

What kind of meaning am I going to imbue this word with? What is the meaning that I impose upon anything in the world? What does that meaning depend on? I call something a car; I call something a tree; I call something a women; I call something money; I call something God; and when I call these things with these names, I am the one who supplies meaning to them. What kind of meanings will I supply? How will I fill up these words? What does that filling up depend on?

Listeners: Value system, mind.

AP: Yes. Well said! You said my values system, you said what’s going on in my mind. Could I just say, “What I think of myself? What I take myself to be?” Depending on what I take myself to be, I paint the word with a thousand colors. The entire pallet is available. I pick up the colors according to who I think I am. If ten fellows look at a woman, they would look at her so differently depending on who they know themselves to be and this ‘knowing’ is what they ‘think’ themselves to be. Right?

You look at a child, you look at a temple or a mosque, and the meaning that you supplied to it depends on who you are, and that is one thing that must be remembered. When you are talking of India, when you are talking of tolerance, you are not talking of anything external, you are talking of yourself because to any word, you are the one, we are probably repeating it for the sixth time, you are the one who will supply the meaning to it and the meaning will depend on what I think yourself to be.

Now, for the sake of convenience, let’s just say that man thinks himself either as material or as material. That is only way you can think of yourself — either as material or as material. Sometimes, you think yourself as gross material and sometimes as subtle material. Gross material is things, body, material that you can hold and touch and watch and smell — perceptible with the senses. So, this kind of man is a body identified man; the one who identifies with body. He thinks himself to be body, his entire mind, his whole sight is obsessed with material, gross material.

There is another kind of man, who thinks of himself as subtle material. And I repeat, whenever you will think of yourself, you will only think of yourself as material. Thinking of yourself as any other thing is not possible because thought itself is *‘thing .* The one who identifies himself with subtle material is the mind identified person. He thinks of himself in terms of ideas; that is subtle material. The one who is body identified, the one whose thought is gross, when he will utter the word ‘India,’ what will he think of India as?

L: Geographical boundaries.

AP: Geographical boundaries. Simply, a land, a territory, a geography, a space limited by boundaries. That would be his definitions of India. The moment such a person, such a mind, utters the word ‘India’ what comes to him is a flashing map of the political country. ‘India’ means the territorial map of India, to such a mind. Whenever you come across such a mind, and it could unfortunately be your own mind, that equates ‘India’ with the map of India, you should know something not about India, but about that man.

What do you immediately come to know about the mind?

That this fellow is terribly body identified. Because he think of himself as body, hence thinks of India as a ‘landmass’. Now every thing that he does with the body, every way in which he relates to his body, would also be the way he would relate to India. The body wants to preserve itself and expand and this mind will say, “let the country expand.” This is the mind of the ‘king,’ who fights wars to enhance the boundaries of its territory. Just as the body draws its sustenance from the world, and is concerned firstly about its own survival, such a mind would want that his country extract resources from wherever possible in the world, and be bothered principally with its own survival and continuation.

We know the games of the body. Don’t we? We have seen how two male animals fight for the female and that is not very different from how two countries would fight for a coveted resource; if that is the definition of country — a piece of land — India or any other country. There is bound to be body-centered strife. Every disease that plagues the body would then also plague the country. There would be the fear of extinction, there would be deep insecurity, the world would appear hostile, there would be a particular date when the boundary would come into existence and there would be an inevitable lurking certainty that one day these boundaries would be no more. And when these boundaries would be no more, I would be no more, the country would be no more. Hence, the relationship with the world would be of strife, conflict. Living would be continuously under the shadow of extinction.

Then, there is the one who identifies more with ideas.

He says, “I am not a layman, I am not a common patriot, I am not the zealot, I am not the one becomes who become overly enthusiastic, I am not the chauvinist; I am an intellectual, I live in my brain, I live with thoughts, and ideas and concepts.” For him, India is a concept and we have often heard this phrase: ‘The idea of India’. Have we not? For this fellow, who thinks of himself as subtle material, who is mind identified, who lives in ideas, everything is an idea. Even India, for him, is an idea and he very proudly and assuredly claims that India is an idea. And as far as he goes, because for him, he himself is an idea, so surely India is an idea. India is as much an idea for him as is his wife, as is his world, as are all his relationships, as is his car, as his life; even life is an idea for him.

This fellow would be plagued by all the diseases of the mind. He would not overtly display conflict. He will say, “You know! I am an civilized man,” and civilization is an idea. So “I am going to tolerate. We will not fight with guns; we will debate.” But in that debate, what he wants to maintain is an opinion. He is prepared to modify his opinions, no doubt about it, but even that modification must be first approved by him . He says, “I will decide what my beliefs are going to be; I am the master of my beliefs. But one thing is certain that I do not know anything except beliefs. So, let us come to a truss: you enjoy your beliefs, and I will enjoy my beliefs, and we will call it peaceful coexistence. We will call it mutual tolerance.” And what is he doing? Look at the cunning game. He is saying, “Let your ego exists and let my ego exists because ego thrives on ideas. Let both of us feel safe in our respected domains.”

And then there is the third mind.

This third mind thinks of itself neither as gross material, nor as subtle material. Then what does it think of himself? Because all thought is material, so it does not think of itself at all. It feels no need to give itself a definition. It is so innocently, joyfully, immersed in life that such questions appear meaningless to it. He has no conception about himself. Such a mind feels no need to give a limit to itself. When asked, “Who are you?,” such a mind does not reply with anything. Silence.

“Who are you?” Well! Not even Shivoham; not even Soham . Only silence. For such a mind, India cannot be an idea. For such a mind, India can be only the mother of all religion. Religion arising from nowhere because if it arises from anywhere, that anywhere is bound to be from man’s mind and religion that arises from man’s mind will be as petty as man. This third mind that does not think of itself as anything looks at India not as a landmass, not as a political unit, not as an idea, but simply as the fountainhead of spirituality.

So is it about India or is it about the way the mind identified itself?

L: The way it identifies

AP: The way it identifies. The second word that happens to be there in the topic for the day is tolerance. We say it is not so much about India, it is more about identification. Where there is identification, there is conflict. That conflict is very tangible, very material, when it comes to the body identified mind. If there are two body identified fellows, then their conflict will be visible as a street fight. They would be hitting each others bodies. I am a body, and you are a body and where there are bodies, there are bound to be conflicts and because you are a body and if I want to hurt you, I will hit your body.

So,fists, and punches would be landing. A very explicit fight will be taking place; and you can surely call it violence. Violence, conflict is the result of the identification. Where there is identification, there is bound to be conflict. This conflict can be called as explicit gruesome violence when two body identified person are fighting. When two mind identified persons are fighting, then this conflict is called as debate. This debate is nothing but a clash of ideas. When two mind identified persons are together, then their togetherness is a conflict which is called as tolerance. Tolerance only means, “I am somehow bearing you.”

The word has a shadow of intolerance.

Tolerance is not love. Or is it? Do you tolerate in love? But because I live in ideas, because my ego is connected to ideas and I am so poor that I know nothing beyond ideas, so for my survival, it is important that ideas must survive. “I cannot allow myself to be called a bigot. I cannot let people say that I am rigid about my views and opinions. So, I am open to talking. I am open to what is called an exchange of views; what I will call as a healthy debate.” But have you ever seen people becoming free of ideas after a debate? What happens after a debate?

Yes, in worst of cases, both parties stick to their grounds. In the best of cases, somebody says, “Well, listening to you I have gained some new beliefs and I am modifying my position.” But have you ever seen anybody become position-less after the debate? Does debate ever lead to meditativeness?

When noise meets noise, can it ever lead to silence?

But the intellectual, the thought identified man, will very proudly claim that there must be healthy debate. And what will be the output of that debate? More beliefs. Not only more beliefs, more beliefs in your beliefs; because now you are saying that “My beliefs have been purged by open debate.” You are saying that, “You know, I have gone to the market, I have exposed my beliefs and my beliefs are now a synthesis of the best that the world’s highest intellectual have to offer. Hence these beliefs must be the Truth.”

That is the bane of the intellectual — He equates beliefs with Truth. And if you tell him beliefs are not truth, then he will say, “All right! I am prepare to modify my beliefs; tell me, what is the Truth? I will start believing in it.” His handicap is that he is prepare to change his beliefs but not ready to go beyond beliefs. Getting it?

The mind that does not think of himself or of the world or India as a material, or as a thought or anything will be bothered only with the Truth. When you are bothered only with the Truth, then there is no conflict. We have said conflict takes the shape of explicit violence when it comes to the body. Conflict takes the shape of argumentation and debate when it comes to the mind. But when you are a nobody, then there is conflictlessness ; because whatever you are, is the source of all conflict.

With Truth, there is love.

It is important to understand the difference between love and tolerance.

Tolerance implies separation, distance. “You remain in your province, as you are, I will remain in my province as I am. We both are entitled to our views, and that is called freedom of thought.”— This is tolerance. Is that not the definition of tolerance? “Both of us are entitled to think the way we want to, and both of us are entitled to express ourselves, we want to.” This is what you called as tolerance. This is what you called as democratic liberty.

The spiritual mind does not caught in this trap. He knows that you are only talking the language of ego. To maintain your opinion is to just maintain your ego. To ask me to maintain my opinion is to just safeguard your ego and my ego. Even when you say that you respect my opinion, you are respecting my opinion only so that your opinion does not get threaten because if you will attack my opinion, then you are also exposing your opinion to threat. So he will say, “Well, you know, unity in diversity” he will not say that all diversities are false, because you are a creature of the mind and mind lives in diversities. The nature of the mind is fragmentation; fragmentation is diversity. So you will use all these nice sounded phrases. You will say, you know India is like great Indian Thali , in which there are theses bowls of various kinds. You will say India is like kaleidoscopic; you will say India is like rainbow but you will be very particular that the differences remain . Because you are identified to differences, your very life will be threatened if somebody shows that all differences are false because all differences just sustain the ego. You will say, ‘you know, it is the greatness of my country that everything is varied, and different here; it is the land of contrast. You will fail to see the underlying nothingness beneath all contrast; the non-duality below all pairs of dualities. That you will not even talk of because that scares you that takes away your very belief in yourself.

In love, you do not tolerate the other. Love and Truth are one. The duty of love is to bring the Truth to other. If I live in love and I see that you are living in opinions, or if I see that you are living a body identified life, then I will not say that, that is your fundamental right or that is your personal way of living. I will not say that I respect the way you live. If I live in love and I see that you are living in violence, then I cannot say that this is your particular choice, your way of life, your tradition, so I am not going to interfere.

I will interfere! Love is not passive. Love has great energy. It is very-very active force.

In love you do not tolerate. I am repeating this and this must be deeply understood.

Love is not about peaceful coexistence.

This statement may shock many of us. But please understand this.

Coexistence means ‘you’ and ‘me’ living separately. Love is not peaceful coexistence. Wherever is co-existence, it cannot be peaceful. In coexistence, there will be tolerance but not love. In love, there is just existence — total, one, undivided. Love will not say that, ‘You may be my neighbor and I see that your life is mired in all kind of rubbish, yet I’ll keep at an arm’s length from you.’ Love will not say that, ‘I might be seeing that you may have created hell for yourself or your family members, for your entire community, but I am not supposed to interferes because it is your community.’

Love interferes. Love takes risks. And love has no regard for your ideas or what you call as the freedom of thought because there is no freedom of thought.

What you call as a freedom of thought and expression is a misnomer. Where there is thought, there is only bondage. But if you are an intellectual, you have nothing more than a thought. So, even freedom, according to you, is the freedom of thought. If you are an intellectual, all that you express is your conditioning, your experiences, and your prejudices. So freedom according to you is just the freedom of expression.

Love has no patience with all this rubbish.

Love says I cannot let you rot; because I cannot let myself rot. If you rot, then I rot. You and I are one. We are not just coexisting; we are one. I want you to change because if you do not change, then I am suffering. Your suffering is my suffering. I am in love with you. And just as I insist that you go beyond your beliefs and thoughts and enter silence, I too am prepared to go beyond beliefs and thoughts and enter silence.

If I am asking you to totally give up your beliefs, it is not so that you may take up my beliefs. I am just asking you to give up and take nothing as a substitute. Become empty. And this call for emptiness is not coming from my beliefs about emptiness, it is my own emptiness which is calling you to become empty. It is not as if I have a belief about something which I want to maintain. But when it comes to you, I am insistent that you must be beliefless. No. I am only asking you to taste what I am tasting.

Freedom from beliefs is a nectar of life.

I have tasted it.

And you and I are one. You too must taste it!

This is the action of love. This is the force of love.

So we wanted to talk about India and tolerance but we saw that it doesn’t make any sense to just take up any two words and talk about them. We talked rather about identification and conflict. What India is, is decided by what you are identified with. And whether it is explicit violence or the violence of argumentation, is decided by the level of conflict but when there is no identification, there is no conflict and what we have is love.

I will not ask you to choose between kinds of conflict. Surely, there can be a conflict free living. Can we live without conflict? The great action of love, the great insistence of love has great energy. It can even lead to bloodshed. Your blood may flow and the others’ blood may flow but still it is conflict free. Kindly, do not equate peace with the word-less-ness of the graveyard. Peace may imply a lot of apparent strife. If you are on the side of peace and peace and love and Truth are all one. If you are on the side of peace, you may actually have to enter a lot of noise and chaos because the action of peace is to spread. Spread where?

The action of the light is to dispel darkness. So, light will have to meet darkness and when peace meets noise, there can be bloodshed. Do not be scared of that. Remember all fear arises from the need for self-preservation. All fear is ego. Only the ego is scared and wants to preserve itself.

If you see that your brother is suffering, first of all, look inwards. See, whether you have come to a point that is free of suffering. Your first responsibility is towards yourself. But when you look at the other in compassion, and at yourself in attention, you find that you have already come to that point that is free of suffering. Now it is your responsibility to act. You may even call that action as interference, but that interference must happen.

What else is Krishna doing?

It’s a matter between brothers. Let them decide whether they want to fight or have a settlement. What else is Krishna doing? He could have said, ‘Well! Arjun, go and speak to the other party. It’s an intra-family thing.’ But he decides to interfere. He is poking his nose.

What else is Jesus doing?

The Jews are all happy. Living the way they are, they are happy. But out of love, you must interfere. But remember, only out of love . Your interference must not be a decoy, you cannot camouflage yourself. Ego loves to call itself love. It is just that I want to impose my beliefs upon you, so I am saying that it is my duty in love to interfere. No! Not that kind of a thing.

First thing: Discover the Krishna, the Jesus sitting inside you.

Second thing: :Let the Krishna and Jesus act.

A Jesus does not tolerate. A Krishna, does not tolerate. Muhammad didn’t tolerate. Saints do not tolerate. Prophets and Avatars , do not come to this earth to tolerate. You too are an avatar. Why must you tolerate? If you will tolerate, what will you tolerate? What do you see around you? What do you see? Is it worth tolerating? You really want to live with all this? You want to allow it to continue? Is that your responsibility towards yourself and the world? To tolerate this non-sense, this rubbish, this violence, this needless suffering. Yes?

Somebody is butchering an innocent animal, must you tolerate that in the name of personal freedom? Must you? In the neighborhood, next door, the father is crippling the mind, the freedom, the being of the daughter by imposing beliefs and a particular life upon her. Will you say it is their family matter, who am I to interfere? If you are really a loving being, would you tolerate? Would you give precedence to your personal security? Would you say, ‘Why must I run into personal trouble? I don’t need to stick out.’ Yes?


In this world, where you can breath today, just reach the lowest ebb which we have filled up with eight billion people, which has weapon enough to destroy the world thousands of time over; is tolerance a virtue? Can you say that people are happy doing what they are doing? Somebody’s religion ask him to live in a particular way, I must let him live that way. Somebody’s conditioning, somebody’s thought, somebody’s upbringing commands him or suggests to him to live and act in a particular way. I must respect that way. Would you say that?

L1: Sir, can we do anything on actual basis? It is happening all the time?

AP: You are talking about acting. You are saying, ‘what can we do?’ Action follows realization. How will you act if you do not realize? How will you know that you need to do something about the world when first of all, you have not known what you need to do about your own life? Yes! I did say that a Krishna, does interfere. But he interferes when he is a Krishna . So the first thing is to discover your own Krishna nature. Have you looked at your own life? And you say that there is so much going on in the world and there is a balance between good and bad; first of all, have you realized who you are? Is that not the foundation on which we are basing the entire session; that words are words. You are the one who supplies meaning to them.

When you know what to do with yourself, then you also know what to do with the world.

Where would you get energy from?

We are so dull.

Obtuse in realization and dull in action. That’s what we are.

When you do not understand anything about your life, how will you take responsibility of the world? I do not know what prompts you to go from this place to that place, then what right do you have to suggest to anything to anybody? You do not know how should you be living, then who are you to interfere in somebody else’s way of life? You do not why you are married, you do not know why you took up a job, you do not know why everyday you perform a particular ritual, then what right do you have to go and suggest something to your neighbor? And even if you try to, on moral grounds, even if you try to, in an attempt to look and sound good, you will find that you re afraid, you will find that you lack energy; you will find that you lack that deep spiritual conviction. Because that deep sureness comes only out of living rightly.

When you are living rightly, only then you get the license to poke your nose; only then you get the license to not to tolerate. You are tolerating all your own beliefs, you are tolerating yourself everyday; you are very accommodative towards your own rubbish, but when it comes to others, you go and say, “No! You must drop your beliefs.”

That is just hypocrisy.

L1: Who is this judge to decide that you should interfere?

AP: You are the judge and if you lack energy, then the judgment is clear. You need not judge even on subjective grounds. If you find that you lack energy, if you find that you lack passion, if you find that you feel like leaving the world to its fate, then the judgment has already been pronounced. This lack of energy comes only from not living rightly.

The one who is living rightly cannot allow others to fall, to get killed, to suffer.

When you are attentive towards yourself, then you are compassionate towards the entire world.

We must seriously ask ourselves, beneath all the verbiage — the thing about tolerance, is it not just indifference? Is it not just insensitivity?

Be active, interfere. Don’t just tolerate me.


Fight, quarrel, engage.

L2: What I am thinking that when a person is tapped with the source or non-duality, then the person cannot talk about anything else. You are doing the same thing.

AP: It depends on how you are listening and if you can listen that way…

L2: I think that way.

AP: No, You are listening that way. If you are listening that way, then it tells more about you than me. If you can listen non-duality in what I am saying, then you are established in non-duality and that is such a wonderful thing.

L3 : Sir, can we boldly say that we wish India to be non-tolerant. How will you make people understand that?

AP: It is not a question of sermonizing. It is the question of the understanding, the realization, showing up in our action.

What is India? What you do, if you do it from your deepest understanding, you are India. You are India!

That is the only befitting definition that we can give to the word, ‘India’ . The source and the center of all understanding. I had said, (India is) the mother of religion. That is the only worthwhile definition of India. Everything else is so disrespectful. So disrespectful!

L4: Sir, just like to share something. I had met a Sanskrit scholar, who used to say that every word has a meaning in Sanskrit and a meaning, which is very well defined. So, once I asked him, “What is the meaning of ‘Bharat’ ?” He said, ‘Bha’ in Sanskrit means ‘Bhram’ ; ‘rat’ means who is involved with bhram. So, ‘bhram-rat’ is Bharat. That was his interpretation. I do not know if that is true?

AP: No, you see sir, we said that any word has a meaning only in context to what you are. If you come to me and ask me, “What is Bharat?” I will not reply. I will wait to catch you in your particular moment of immersion or love. I will wait to catch you, looking deeply immersed towards a mountain, or a river or a butterfly and then I will say, “That! That! That which is just now happening to you is ‘Bharat’ because that is the only way I can tell you what is Bharat?” I cannot tell you ‘What is Bharat?’ by referring to the etymology of the word.

If you ask me, “What is love?” It will be foolish of me to say, ‘L-O’ means this; ‘V’ means this; ‘E’ means this. If you ask me, “What is love?” I will wait for you to taste love and in that moment, when you would be in love, then I will say, “That! That is love!”

So, if you’ll ask me, “What is Bharat?”

I will wait for you to look at the snow capped Himalayas. And then, when your eyes would be shining with wonderment, then I will say, “ That is Bharat!”

Or when you would be reading The Upanishads, and your mind would suddenly be getting lighter and your face would have a sudden radiance and you would have felt for yourself, deeply in your heart what it meant to say, *‘* Poornamidah – poornamidam’ (Opening prayer in Upanishads)

Then I will say, “ That! That is Bharat.”

Otherwise what does ‘bha’ and ‘rat’ means? Nothing.

All this is just word play.

The word ‘That’ is of tremendous significance. ‘That’; ‘Tat’ ; ‘Tat- Tvam – asi’ .

‘Tat’ — ‘That’ is ‘Bharat’.

Just as we formally began this session, formally we have to close it as well.

But really, it is about being together and close.

And ‘that’ cannot be closed.

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